WHO: Progress Made Containing Ebola in Eastern DRC

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports substantial progress is being made in containing the spread of the Ebola virus in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It warns, however, that new hotspots are appearing. The WHO says the number of confirmed and probable cases of Ebola in the DRC stands at 143, including 97 deaths.
WHO officials say they are pleased with the progress being made in limiting the spread of the Ebola virus, but that the outbreak of this fatal disease in Congo’s conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces remains active and vigilance must be maintained.
WHO reports the situation in Mangina, the initial epicenter of the epidemic in North Kivu, is stabilizing. WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told VOA there are no security problems there, so health workers are able to safely access the area and treat those affected by the disease. But there are exceptions.
“Immediately to the east is an inaccessible area. This region is in a security level four, which is one of the highest in the U.N. security phasing system. For example, the road from Beni to Oicha is in the ‘red zone’… So, in some places, we are really able to move to work. In some other places, it is more difficult,” she said.
Chaib said the cities of Beni and Butembo have become the new hotspots, noting that Butembo is in the red zone.
The WHO spokeswoman said there is significant risk that Ebola could spread there, and health workers have to remain on top of the many challenges facing them.
Among the challenges is a growing resistance in some communities to measures used to contain the virus.
For example, Chaib said, some people are reluctant to go to treatment centers for care. Others are unwilling to change traditional burial practices, such as touching the bodies of those who have died from Ebola. WHO warns this is one of the surest ways of spreading the infection. The outbreak in the DRC is the 10th since Ebola was first identified in 1976.

Source: Voice of America

Kyagulanyi’s Return Excites Ugandan Youth

The return of Ugandan legislator Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as singer Bobi Wine, has excited his supporters and raised their hopes for political change.
Hundreds of young people gathered Thursday at Kyagulanyi’s home in the Wakiso district outside of Kampala. Their songs and chants made clear who they want Uganda’s next leader to be.
Beaten but not broken, the 36-year-old Kyagulanyi told VOA he cannot think about the 2021 presidential election at this time.
“Right now, we are actually slaves in our own country,” he said. “We cannot speak freely. We cannot even wave to each other freely. So, if we have such impunity, we must think about that impunity and how to deal with. It’s now or never. It has never happened before that so many people are so united and are speaking with one voice. This should not be taken for granted.”
Kyagulanyi returned to Uganda on Thursday, after receiving medical treatment in the United States. He sustained injuries last month when police arrested him following protests against President Yoweri Museveni in the town of Arua.
Nakuya Aida, who was among those chanting her support for Kyagulanyi, sees this as the start of a movement.
“This is the process, leading us to 2021,” she said. “We are hoping change through elections. We are spreading the gospel of people power all over the country. So, there is nothing like asking what’s next. We are already in the transitional process without tear gas, without worry, but with the vigor, with all the courage.”
Political analyst Anna Adeke Ebaju says young people are tired of hearing the older generation praise the current government for bringing peace after years of conflict. She argues that the younger generation has reached its breaking point.
“We are talking about young people who can’t get jobs. We are talking about systems that we need to build so that they work for all of us. For our sake as young people, I hope that we are preserved until we can finish this revolution that is already in its primary stages. But we would never want, of course, our country to be marred by more bloodshed,” she said.
Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo says the ruling National Resistance Movement created expectations through its political promises.
“NRM government is not able to create for them opportunities at a faster pace,” he said. “And, therefore, there is genuine discontent and yearning, particularly opportunity for gainful employment. But that cannot be achieved by the kind of emotional wave of Bobi Wine.”
Kyagulanyi and several opposition colleagues are still facing charges of treason in connection with the incident in Arua, when someone threw a stone at the president’s motorcade, shattering a car window.

Source: Voice of America

Top Algerian Military Commanders Being Purged Ahead of Presidential Election

A number of top Algerian military commanders, including the heads of the air force and the army, have been dismissed within the past week.
In a series of moves, at least a dozen top officers have been replaced since June.
Analysts say that a core of military officers under the deputy defense minister are consolidating their power in the lead up to presidential elections next spring, which ailing outgoing President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika is expected to win.
Algerian state TV announced the ouster of a number of top military commanders earlier this week, including the country’s air force chief and the army’s head of ground operations. One top officer fled to Paris with his family through Algiers International Airport, prompting the firing of top airport security personnel.
A former Algerian diplomat, Mohammed Zeytout, told an Egyptian TV station the firings were part of an “extremely ugly power struggle” in which “top generals are firing, deposing or arresting each other, while some are trying to flee the country.” Former military officers have had their passports canceled and are not being allowed to travel.
HilalKhashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, termed the purges a “pre-emptive coup,” while Mohammed Zeytout called them “unprecedented except for countries that have undergone regime change or a coup.”
Bouteflika is running for a fifth term this coming spring, despite poor health, and Khashan says those who support him are using him as a figurehead behind which to govern.
“There is an agreement among the power elite in Algeria to keep Abdel Aziz Bouteflika in office because they run the country since he is incapacitated and they hide behind him and that gives them a sense of legitimacy,” Khashan said. “The fear is that if Bouteflika is gone, Algeria would be gravely destabilized.”
Khashan points out that Army Chief of Staff Gaid Salah, who appears to be calling the shots, has been using corruption as a pretext to get rid of possible rivals. “Corruption,” he said “is nothing new in Algeria. It is a way of life.”
France’s influential Le Monde newspaper reported that top army officers have been accused of “running up to 30 private companies, each,” both in their own names and in the names of family members.
Mohammed Bashoush, who teaches political science at the University of Algiers, told Al Hurra TV he thinks the current turmoil in Algeria is nevertheless part of an agreement between civilian and military leaders.
Bashoush said it is obvious the changes taking place in the military are directly related to preparations for the upcoming presidential elections, and despite the conflict between opposing sides, both the political and military wings of the presidency have come to a consensus over a road map to follow.
Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia told a press conference earlier this week, during the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that despite turmoil, Algeria has a free press and everyone is allowed to speak out.
Ouyahia said freedom of expression is an integral part of the Algerian press and its 160 newspapers, and no one is penalized for what they write about the president, the prime minister or the institutions of state.
But former diplomat Zeytout was less sanguine.
“President Bouteflika is sick and his health is miserable. He hasn’t addressed the people in 6 years and 4 months,” Zeytout said. “No one wants to talk about it, but the real power center is Army Chief of Staff Gaid Salah, who runs the country surrounded by 30 other generals.”

Source: Voice of America

EU Envisions New Joint Border Force

An ambitious plan for a European Union Border and Coast Guard force was unveiled at a special meeting of the European Council in Austria this week.
European Commission officials have told VOA that they want the project approved before European elections next May, in which immigration is expected to be a central issue.
The project is being pushed by the EU’s current rotating president, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who used the summit to criticize southern European countries for failing to fully register immigrants entering through their borders. He said that EU officials who didn’t work directly for any state might be less susceptible to “distractions.”
While officials meeting in Austria doubt that the border force plan will go into effect with the speed and reach suggested by the European Commission, a senior Spanish diplomat says that EU leaders “have to give the impression of advancing on immigration control and that some steps will be taken towards creating of a joint border force as long as it’s flexible and complimentary to member states.”
Long-standing suggestions for a joint border force have gained urgency recently as differences on dealing with the ongoing influx of immigrants threatens to divide the EU and generate support for populist and nationalist politicians running on anti-immigrant planks.
Spanish foreign minister JosepBorrell said this week that the future of European integration rests on developing a joint policy on immigration. Forming a border force to give teeth to the EU’s understaffed and underfunded border control agency would further the goal, according to European Commission president Jean Claude Junker.
He has asked for $1.5 billion to be budgeted over the next two years to reinforce Europe’s main border control agency FRONTEX with a standing force of 10,000 guards capable of responding to new emergencies.
Based in the Polish capital Warsaw, FRONTEX has until now operated as a coordinating and information exchange mechanism between European security services. Its capacity to engage in prolonged field operations is limited by its dependence on voluntary contributions from individual government.
Junker has warned of growing migration pressures from Africa, which, he said, could soon hold 25 percent of the planet’s population. EU analysts also fear a new flood of refugees from Syria as the Assad regime threatens an offensive against the last major rebel stronghold bordering Turkey.
“I want a standing corps of 10,000 in place by 2020 ready to support the over 100,000 national border guards in their difficult tasks. We need to establish a genuine, efficient EU border guard — in the true sense of the word. For this to happen, we also need equipment. We need more planes, more vessels, more vehicles,” Junker recently told the European parliament.
A legislative proposal issued on Sept. 12 by the European Commission projects an eventual budget of $15 billion over seven years beginning in 2021, to establish a network of surveillance centers, frontier check points as well as permanent sea, air and land patrols which would be armed and equipped with latest technology.
The plan contemplates “dynamic” border protection by which the EU force would be deployed and moved around “hot spots” as requested by member states, as well as exercising a degree of “executive powers” in responding to emergencies “autonomously.”
The force would also be tasked with the removal of migrants who do not qualify for EU protection under existing international treaties, according to the European Commission briefing presented at this week’s summit.
Some EU governments such as Italy have been seeking the creation of “regional platforms” in third countries for returning migrants.
Officials tell VOA that while setting up such facilities is not contemplated as a border force mission, the return of immigrants to countries outside Europe is the type of task which an EU unit might perform more effectively than single governments.
Pressures for a border force follow a series of immigration crises over the past year which have seriously tested European unity. In his speech before the European parliament last week, Junker referred to an episode in which Italy defied the EU by refusing entry to a ship ferrying African migrants.
He blamed the incident on a lack of mutual “solidarity” which could have been resolved with a common coast guard to direct the ship.
Spain expelled 166 African migrants who forced their way through border fences with Morocco over the protests by EU officials while Austria and Hungary have similarly engaged in unilateral expulsions and closed their borders in defiance of the EU Shengen treaty.
Distrust of Europe’s ability to police frontiers was also a factor in Britain’s decision to “Brexit” from the EU through a referendum two years ago.
An EU immigration expert working in Spain’s foreign ministry has told the VOA that creation of an EU Border and Coast Guard will probably gain support in a series of meetings between interior and justice ministers over the next few months.
But the proposal put forward by Junker is likely to undergo major changes before it goes up for a vote before the European parliament, according to the source.
A summit between EU, Arab and African governments to further cooperation on immigration is being held in February according to European Commissions’ high representative for foreign affairs and security, Federica Mogherini.
An EU force composed of security units from different member states is already operating in the Sahel region of northern Africa.

Source: Voice of America

Burkina Faso Arrests 30 Over Illegal Female Circumcisions

Burkina Faso authorities have jailed more than 30 adults after they carried out botched female genital mutilation on nearly 60 infants and girls who have been hospitalized.
Viviane Ursule Sanou, head of the National Secretariat against Circumcision, said Tuesday the banned procedure was carried out on girls and young women ranging from 10 months to 24 years old in the capital, Ouagadougou, Kaya in the north and two towns in the central east.
She says because the practice is illegal, many people carry out the circumcisions in secret. All of the victims have been admitted to hospitals for treatment of hemorrhage and infection.
Burkina Faso adopted measures banning female circumcision in the early ’90s. The penal code adopted this year suggests up to 10 years in prison and severe fines.

Source: Voice of America